Method for Producing Graphene from Lignin Awarded Patent

Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researcher Zhiyong Cai, with industrial and academic partners from Domtar Corporation and Mississippi State University, was granted a patent on June 2, 2020 for their method of synthesizing graphene from lignin.   

Zhiyong Cai – Supervisory Materials Research Engineer

Graphene is one of the most promising materials of the future. Its potential to be implemented in tech manufacturing is huge, from medicine to medical devices, electronics to batteries, environmental protection equipment to devices used for clean-energy, and more.

One barrier to realizing the vast capabilities of this material is finding a low-cost, largely available source for graphene. The ability to produce graphene from lignin, as the patent describes, breaks down that barrier.

“Lignin is a primary component of the plant cell wall in most terrestrial plants and the second most abundant biopolymer in nature,” explained Cai. A byproduct of the pulping and papermaking process, most lignin has been used as a low-value material for fueling power and heat. Cai and his collaborators’ process now provides a higher value use for lignin. Importantly, the synthesizing method is not just limited to lignin but can be used to produce graphene from other solid carbon resources as well, especially biomass.

This novel method of synthesizing graphene allows for high-volume production. Cai best explained this now patented process:

“Few-layer graphene materials are produced through a molecular cracking and welding (MCW) method. The MCW technique is a single step process with two stages, i.e., graphene-encapsulated core–shell nanoparticles are first formed by catalytic thermal treatment of solid carbon materials. Then these core–shell structures are opened by ‘cracking molecules’ in the second stage and the cracked graphene shells are self-welded and reconstructed to form high quality multilayer graphene materials at a heating temperature with selected welding reagent gases.”

The formation of a graphene-based material from graphene-encapsulated core–shell nanoparticles. (a) Graphene-encapsulated metal nanoparticles; (b) cracked core–shell nanoparticles; (c) graphene sheets

This new and innovative method has been proven “to be a scalable process for the production of low-cost, high-purity nanoscale graphene materials from renewable resources,” bringing the fabrication of tomorrow’s technologies one step closer.

To find out more about the amazing advancements our scientists are making, visit the Forest Products Laboratory at:

Collaboration Yields U.S. Patent for Green Building Materials

University of Colorado Denver (CU) professor and architect Julee Herdt, in collaboration with John Hunt of the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), and Kellen Schauermann, architect, CU alumnus and research assistant, recently received a patent for environmental construction materials.

BioSIPs structural panels for wall, floor, and roof constructions.

The patent includes software and material science for converting 100 percent waste fibers, such as post-consumer wastepaper, agriculture residues, flowers, hemp, wood scraps, noxious weeds, dead trees, and other unwanted cellulose, into high-strength construction boards.  Using the technology, these dense yet lightweight and strong boards are bent and flexed into a virtually limitless array of shapes, from flat to complex, for making energy-efficient, non-off-gassing building materials, and buildings. The software also allows for associated manufacturing, economic, and recycling scenarios to be studied while the waste fiber eco-products are being designed. Continue reading

From Research to the Real World: Technologies Available for Licensing

Research at the Forest Products Laboratory includes developing products and processes that impact people’s daily lives. But to bridge the gap between research results and real-world use, these technologies must be made available to private companies through technology transfer efforts.

The Ring Profiler is a patented invention that provides a more accurate look at how trees grow. It is available for licensing.

The Ring Profiler is a patented invention that provides a more accurate look at how trees grow. It is available for licensing.

Patenting technologies is one way to encourage the commercial adoption of advances made at the Lab.

Patenting an invention excludes others from making, using, or selling the invention for a number of years. Securing a patent then enables FPL to grant patent licenses to private companies for use in commercial markets.

Technologies invented by FPL and other Forest Service scientists are available for licensing and/or cooperative research opportunities in the following areas:

– Adhesives
– Biotechnology
– Field-ready Instrumentation Devices
– Firefighting Equipment
– Forest Insect Technologies
– Forest Products Utilization
– Fungal Remediation of Preservative Treated Wood
– Nanotechnology
– Non-destructive Evaluation
– Pulp and Paper
– Wood Connectors
– Wood Preservation

For a complete list of available patents, visit FPL’s Patents and Licensing webpage.

FPL Research Patented

A patent titled “Method and Apparatus for Determining the Surface Area of a Threaded Fastener” was recently awarded to FPL researchers Douglas Rammer and Samuel Zelinka.  The invention is a method for reliably determining the surface areas of threaded fasteners, such as wood screws, drywall screws, or threaded nails.

The method entails acquiring an image of the fastener, separating the image into three regions (thread region, root region, and body surface), determining the surface area of each region, and summing them. The ability to determine this measurement is important for several applications, including studying the corrosion rate of fasteners.